Around 200 pieces – from paintings, photos, drawings, engravings, sculptures and installations to documents, audiovisual material and personal objects – compose this exhibition that enlightens how the actions of female characters were fundamental to the constitution of the Carioca and Brazilian society on the 19th and 20th centuries, in several areas, like visual arts, literature, music, theatre, dance, medicine, architecture, sports, religion, politics etc. Tarsila e Mulheres Moderna do Rio [Tarsila and Rio’s Modern Women] was curated by Hecilda Fadel, Marcelo Campos, Nataraj Trinta and Paulo Herkenhoff.
It’s the first time that Tarsila do Amaral (1886 – 1973, Brazil) is exhibited in a context broader than the artistic one, in a show that also approaches the historical moment of Rio and Brazil at a period marked by the invigoration of movements that fought for women’s rights to take new roles in society and be the masters of their own bodies and desires. In such a context, Tarsila’s life and work, present with 25 paintings and 10 drawings, is the starting point for the exhibition, that comprises many other great names, such as Maria Martins (1894 – 1973, Brazil), Anita Malfatti (1889 – 1964, Brazil), Lygia Clark (1920 – 1988, Brazil), and Lygia Pape (1927 – 2004, Brazil), among others.
The show begins with the women portrayed by Debret (1768 – 1848, France) on the 19th century, in drawings that show the use of “muxarabi”, a wooden latticework that occulted feminine figures at home. The evolution of women’s roles on society passes by the right to vote and the acknowledgment of the housekeepers’ work – the show includes the first news story published on the subject, from 1950. The Aterro do Flamengo and the importance of women for Rio’s Modern architecture is represented by Lota de Macedo Soares (1910, France – 1967, USA) and Niomar Moniz Sodré (1916 – 2003, Brazil).
The integration of women in the musical environment, when they started making presentations at night clubs, is told by the histories and songs of great radio divas, such as Emilinha Borba (1923 – 2005, Brazil) and Marlene (b. 1922, São Paulo, Brazil). Samba and the mixture of music and religion appear in photos of feijoadas and communities’ meetings in the city. As for the dance, the first black ballerina of the Theatro Municipal, Mercedes Baptista (1921 – 2014, Brazil), and other names of classical and contemporary ballet, are part of the exhibit.
The space dedicated for literature shows another aspects of Clarice Lispector (1920, Ukraine – 1977, Brazil), like the feminine chronicles she wrote under the pseudonym Helen Palmer, her work in painting and photos of her intimacy captured by her son. Rare pieces, like the manuscript of “O Quinze”, by Rachel de Queiroz (1910 – 2003, Brazil), are also part of the selection. Finally, the exhibition is completed with photos and news clippings that tell the story of women that went to the streets to fight for their rights and the rights of their families, like Pagu (1910 – 1962, Brazil), the first woman in Brazil to be arrested by political motivations, and Amarildo’s widow, who stood up to the police in search for her husband’s body.